Whether you’re trying to manage diabetes or you simply want to reign in your carb addiction, counting carbs may play a key role in keeping your diet in check. Skipping your morning or afternoon snack might be one way to keep your carb count down, but there’s a catch. (Isn’t there always?)
Think about the types of foods you crave when you’re hungry—or worse, “hangry.” Most famished folks head straight for the carbs.
Take a look at this example: A 2012 study divided participants into two groups. One fasted for 18 hours, and the other was instructed to eat meals as normal. Then, both groups were presented with a buffet of food options. Not surprisingly, the fasting group was more likely to start with a starchy food (in this case, dinner rolls and French fries) and less likely to start with a vegetable—regardless of the order of the food on the buffet table.
In other words, skipping a snack for the sake of carb control may backfire if it makes you enter your next meal ravenous. A light, carefully planned snack can prevent cravings and unwanted binges, and that will be better for your carb count in the long run.
Tips for a Healthy Low-Carb Snack
The best snack includes a balance of lean protein, healthy fats, fresh fruits and vegetables, and—yes—complex carbs. (Think beans, fruit, and whole grains. Learn more about complex vs. simple carbs here.)
These low-carb snacks are made from fresh, whole ingredients and will help you sneak in a serving of fruits and vegetables. Each snack has below 200 calories and 15 grams of carbohydrates.
Plain Greek yogurt with blueberries and slivered almonds. Yogurt has a health halo around it, but yogurt that has been pumped full of sugar, flavors, and dyes is no longer the nutritional powerhouse it claims to be. Look for plain, unflavored, and unsweetened yogurt, and check the ingredients to ensure it contains gut-healthy “active cultures” (i.e. probiotics).
Carb count: A parfait with five ounces of yogurt, 1/4 cup blueberries, and a tablespoon of almonds has around 160 calories and 12.5 grams of carbs.
Semisoft cheese wedge (like Babybel) and half an apple. Those little cheese wedges can help quell a cheese craving without going overboard on calories and saturated fat. Split an apple with a friend, or store the other half in an airtight container in the fridge; it’s perfect for tomorrow’s snack. (Learn more here about how long leftovers actually last.)
Carb count: This cheesy snack has 120 calories and 12.5 carbs.
Sliced bell pepper with guacamole. Guacamole is full of monounsaturated fats, which can help lower your bad (LDL) cholesterol, according to the American Diabetes Association. Measure out a portion ahead of time; that will help you avoid eating two cups of guac in one sitting. (Hey, we’ve all been there.)
Carb count: A cup of bell pepper slices with three tablespoons of guac has 175 calories and 10 grams of carbs.
Hard-boiled eggs with a hummus center. Like deviled eggs? Skip the mayo and try this beany variation. Scoop out the yolk and mash with hummus (a tablespoon of your favorite hummus per egg). Add your yolk-hummus mixture back into the egg, and snack away.
Carb count: Two eggs and two tablespoons of regular hummus have 190 calories and 6 grams of carbs.
Steamed edamame in the shell. Thanks to the shell, you’ll eat this snack more slowly, so it’s perfect if you’re prone to eating mindlessly (and aren’t we all?). Bonus: Edamame is a great source of protein for managing diabetes.
Carb count: A cup and a half of edamame has 120 calories and 8 grams of carbs.